The pectoral muscles are a focal point for many looking to build mass. There any number of exercises which target the area, but none rival the bench press. Hereâ€™s our how-to guide.
Flat barbell bench press
This is generally one of the first exercises a body builder takes to when they start out and is known as being a measure of general strength.
Lay flat on your back on the bench with the barbell in the rack. Your legs should be on either side of the bench with your feet flat on the ground. Your back, head and backside should stay flat on the bench throughout the exercise.
Un-rack the barbell so it is directly above your chest and as your lower it to chest level ensuring that your elbows are at a 45 degree angle to your body. It should touch your chest around your nipple area but you should avoid bouncing the bar off your ribcage.
Arnold Schwarzenegger demonstrates perfect technique:
Blast the bar back up by straightening your arms, using your chest muscles to be as explosive as possible. Once you pass the mid-way point of the rep, use your tricepts to lock out your arms. However, avoid over-locking your arms â€“ you should bring them to the point where they are completely straight and no further.
Repeat the exercise for between eight and 12 repetitions and cycle through as many sets as is suitable for your level.
There are three main variations to the flat barbell press, which differ in terms of your hand placement on the bar. A close grip barbell bench press will give more emphasis on your triceps. A wide grip, meanwhile, will place the focus more squarely on your pecs. A middle grip, the most common type, is used to combine the strength of both the pecs, shoulders and the triceps and will generally allow you to lift the heaviest weight.
If you wish to focus on your upper chest, you can alter the incline of the bench. If you raise the top half off the bench to between flat and 45 degrees and lock it into place, you can bench as normal. The exercise works in the same way except it will build the top half of your pectoral muscles more so than a flat bench exercise.